During denominational meetings this summer, several churches took stands on pornography and abortion. And at least two denominations debated the propriety of holding church investments in companies that do business in South Africa.

The general synod of the 1.7 million-member United Church of Christ (UCC) called for the immediate divestment of all its assets—estimated at $100 million to $125 million—from firms that do business in South Africa. (The synod action is recommended, but not binding, on the autonomous boards of national UCC agencies.) Some say divestment would help pressure the South African government to abolish apartheid, its policy of racial separation. In addition, synod delegates called for church members to refuse to buy products imported from South Africa and to boycott companies doing business with that nation.

A second denomination, the Church of the Brethren, instructed its general board to study the issue of divestment of church assets from companies that do business in South Africa. The general board will present a policy paper to next year’s annual conference of the 164,000-member church.

In a major ecumenical development, the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in separate meetings voted to enter into an “ecumenical partnership” that stops short of a formal merger. The UCC called on all of its congregations to implement closer ties with the 1.2 million-member Disciples of Christ. The partnership will include shared theological study and common worship that will include sharing Holy Communion.

Other denominations debated a variety of issues, including pornography and abortion. Included among actions taken are the following:

• Delegates to the biennial meeting of the 1.6 million-member American Baptist Churches (ABC) adopted a statement on abortion that moved the denomination away from its earlier strongly prochoice stance. James Gilbert, president of an unofficial group called American Baptist Friends of Life, said his group pushed for a stronger prolife statement than the one that was adopted. The group plans to work for stronger prolife statements in the future. In addition, it is trying to influence the ABC and its congregations to help provide alternatives to abortion.

• The 30,000-member Conservative Congregational Christian Conference passed a statement against abortion on demand, saying abortion is justified only “in the rare situation when the life of the unborn child mortally threatens the … life of the mother.…” The statement calls on Christians to work for an end to abortion and to offer biblical alternatives to those considering abortion.

Article continues below

• The 70,000-member Free Methodist Church of North America strengthened its opposition to abortion. The church’s previous policy said abortions were allowable to “preserve the sanity” of the mother. The denomination’s new policy says abortion is justifiable only “to save the life of the pregnant woman.”

In other action, the church’s general conference defeated an attempt to rescind a ruling that permits the ordination of women as elders, and urged church members to boycott stores that sell obscene materials.

• The Evangelical Free Church of America, with 140,000 constituents, called on its adherents to oppose pornography publicly. Delegates passed a resolution calling on Christians to insist that President Reagan, postal inspectors, and other public officials enforce existing laws against obscenity.

• The Baptist General Conference urged Christians to take “righteous and responsible” action against pornography. Delegates called on the U.S. attorney general to enforce federal laws against pornography.

• The Church of the Nazarene expressed its “abhorrence” of pornography, urging “active opposition to [it] by every legitimate means.” In a separate action, the denomination toughened its stance against abortion. The general assembly of the 750,000-member church said abortion is allowable only when the mother’s life is endangered. Previously, the denomination had said abortion could be justified for “sound medical reasons affecting the life of the fetus.…”

• Despite appeals and protests from 56 Christian Reformed Church (CRC) congregations, the denomination’s synod voted to uphold last year’s decision to open the office of deacon to women. The decision does not require local congregations in the 142,000-member denomination to ordain women. This year’s synod declined to open the offices of elder and minister to women.

• The general council of the Assemblies of God elected G. Raymond Carlson as its new general superintendent after Thomas F. Zimmerman, 73, withdrew his name from balloting. “I believe the general council has reached the time when, in the providence of God, we should look for leadership in a new direction,” Zimmerman told the delegates. He has served as general superintendent since 1960.

Zimmerman presided over the 1.2 million-member denomination during years in which it was hailed as America’s fastest-growing denomination. The Pentecostal denomination established close ties with mainstream evangelicalism under Zimmerman’s leadership, largely because of his personal involvement in the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Religious Broadcasters.

Article continues below
Suits Filed Against Jewish Group

Two Hebrew-Christian organizations have filed lawsuits against the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. The suits, filed by Jews for Jesus and the American Board of Missions to the Jews, charge that the Jewish Community Relations Council has urged churches and restaurants not to rent space to them. The lawsuits argue that the acts have deprived the Hebrew-Christian groups of their civil rights. Jews for Jesus founder Moishe Rosen said the lawsuits are necessary “because we can’t have the people who do business with us intimidated by those who want to squelch what we have to say.”

Appeals Court Reverses Linscott Murder Conviction

An Illinois appeals court has reversed the murder conviction of a former Bible school student on grounds of insufficient evidence. Steven Linscott has been in prison since 1982 when a jury found him guilty of murder (CT, Feb. 4, 1983, p. 42). After his conviction was reversed last month, Linscott remained in prison pending the outcome of a motion seeking his release on bail. The state might request a rehearing or appeal the case to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Scientology Judgment Dismissed

An Oregon judge has voided a jury’s $39 million fraud verdict against the Church of Scientology. Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Donald Londer said the trial had strayed from the original fraud charges and developed into an attack on the religion of Scientology. The settlement had been awarded to Julie Titchbourne, who said the Church of Scientology had not fulfilled its promises to improve her intelligence, eyesight, and study habits.

Christianity Today, Inc., Buys Magazine For Christian Women

Christianity Today, Inc., has purchased Today’s Christian Woman magazine. The bimonthly magazine, formerly published by the Fleming H. Revell Company, became the fifth magazine to be published by Christianity Today, Inc. The other magazines are LEADERSHIP, PARTNERSHIP, CAMPUS LIFE, and CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Gallup Says Role Of Religion Is Stable

Pollster George Gallup, Jr., says the religious beliefs and practices of Americans have been stable for the past 50 years. Church membership, belief in God, and confidence in religious institutions are as widespread today as they were in the 1930s, he says. However, the proportion of Americans who say religion is important in their lives has declined significantly, from three-quarters in 1952 to 56 percent in the 1980s.

Article continues below
Court Rules Against Catholic University

A three-member panel of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals has ruled that a Catholic university must grant homosexual rights groups the same official recognition as other student groups. Washington’s Georgetown University argued that official recognition of homosexual rights groups would be an unconstitutional infringement of the university’s religious beliefs. A nine-judge appeals court panel has agreed to rehear the case.

Irs Allows Deduction For Failed Abortions

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) plans to continue allowing an income tax deduction for aborted children that survive briefly. The deduction has been opposed by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which says the deduction violates federal policy against public funding of abortions. The NAE plans to support federal legislation that would solve the problem.

Merkt Conviction Reversed

A federal appeals court has reversed the conviction of Stacey Merkt for assisting illegal aliens from El Salvador. The appeals court ruled that the district court had improperly handled the issue of whether Merkt intended to transport the aliens “in furtherance of” their violation of the law. Merkt testified that she accompanied the Salvadorians to help them file political asylum claims at an immigration office in San Antonio.

Three Priests Elected To Hungarian Parliament

Three Roman Catholic priests who are active in the Peace Priests’ Movement have been elected to the Parliament of the Communist country of Hungary. The election caused controversy in Rome because it violates canon law that forbids priests from holding political office.

Methodist Bishop Loses Zimbabwe Parliament Seat

United Methodist bishop Abel T. Muzorewa, former interim prime minister of Zimbabwe, has lost his seat in the nation’s Parliament. Muzorewa was defeated during summer elections along with two other members of his United African National Council. Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s ruling Marxist party won 63 of the 80 Parliament seats that are reserved for blacks.

Hong Kong Christians Battle Prostitution

Christian opposition to pornography and prostitution appears to be influencing the government of Hong Kong. The government has rejected the establishment of a special “prostitution zone.” In addition, officials have seized pornographic magazines and arrested some publishers. The government is considering establishing a tribunal to determine standards of “objectionability” in publications.

Article continues below
Rumania To Release A Priest

Rumanian authorities have granted an Orthodox priest and his family emigration status and will soon allow them to leave the Communist country. The priest, Gheorghe Calciu, is known for urging Christians to affirm their right to religious freedom. He has spent more than 22 years in Rumanian prisons. Calciu received emigration status 20 days after 64 U.S. Congressmen sent a letter on his behalf to the Rumanian president.


Donald K. Campbell has been elected president of Dallas Theological Seminary, effective April 1, 1986. He will succeed John F. Walvoord, who will retire after 50 years in academic and administrative posts at the seminary. Campbell joined the seminary staff as registrar in 1954. He later served as academic dean, professor of Bible exposition, and executive vice-president.

Religious Heritage of America has named Leighton Ford Clergyman of the Year. Ford, head of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, is an associate evangelist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

The National Coalition Against Pornography has named Richard McLawhorn as executive director. He formerly served as director of research for the legislative council of the South Carolina General Assembly.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.